How To Get a DBA in Tennessee

If you’re interested in creating a DBA name for your Tennessee business, then use our step-by-step guide. While we don’t currently offer DBA registration services in Tennessee, we can help you with starting a business. Get started below.

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No matter what type of business you have or are starting, a “doing business as” (DBA) name is an important consideration for any owner. DBA names are usually used when you want to use multiple names for one business, or if you are a sole proprietor wanting to be recognized as something other than your personal legal name. If you own a business and would like to use a different name than your legal business name, you’ll need to register it at both the state and the local level.

Although we don’t currently offer DBA registration in Tennessee, this guide will cover the basics of what a DBA name is as well as the rules for choosing, registering, and maintaining one in the Volunteer State.

What is a Tennessee DBA name?

DBA means “doing business as.” It’s a way for a business to operate under a different name. In Tennessee, “assumed name” is another term often used. You may also see “trade name” or “fictitious name” used sometimes, but they all mean the same thing in Tennessee. 

It’s important to note that a DBA name is just a legal way to use a different name; it doesn’t create a separate business entity. Think of DBA names as aliases, useful for marketing but not for legal or tax purposes. 

While a DBA name can be useful for any kind of business, different entities may choose to file for different reasons. 

Below are the general categories of businesses filing for a DBA name:

  • Sole proprietors and partnerships often register a DBA name to simply have a business name, rather than operate under their own name or names. If Anna Smith wants to call her business “Quality Carpentry,” she needs to register that DBA name to do business as “Quality Carpentry.” This involves using the name when advertising and opening a bank account for her business.
  • Corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) often use DBA names to simplify their existing name or operate under the name of a new venture, such as a different line of products or services. DBA names allow these companies to do business under the brand name of that new venture. The simplest use of a DBA name, modifying the existing name, means a business like “John Harper and Sons, LLC” can drop the “LLC” from any marketing and advertising efforts moving forward.

Even the smallest of businesses can benefit from having a DBA name under which to operate. Below is a list of the biggest pluses that come from choosing a new name for your business.

  • A better name: The right name speaks to what your business does, which makes marketing easier. If you’re an LLC or corporation, creating a fresh brand not associated with the parent company is also a marketing plus.
  • Affordable: In Tennessee, the cost of a DBA name is fairly low. 
  • Flexibility: Adapting to the demands of your market is crucial for long-term success. Obtaining a DBA name lets you diversify your business relatively fast and without a lot of fuss.

Are you ready to register your own DBA name? Keep reading to learn how to get and maintain a DBA name in Tennessee.

How do I register a Tennessee DBA name?

Registering a DBA name in Tennessee is a fairly straightforward process, regardless of what type of business entity you have. While some states’ compliance requirements make owners publish notice of their name change in local newspapers for a set number of weeks, Tennessee involves a form, a filing fee, and waiting for approval. 

Below are the steps to register your Tennessee DBA name, broken down by type of business.

Sole Proprietors and General Partnerships

  1. Obtain the correct business license for the county where your business is located by contacting the Register of Deeds in that county.
  2. Once you’ve used the name search tool through the Tennessee Secretary of State website to verify that your DBA name is available, complete the form. You’ll need a physical address for the business, using your own if you don’t have a storefront or separate office, and the names and addresses of all business owners.
  3. Have your form notarized. Usually, this can be done right in the office where you’re filing your DBA name. If not, check with the county courthouse (or try a quick online search) for notary publics near you. Notaries do charge a fee, although it’s not likely to be any more expensive than your filing fee.
  4. Submit the form to the Register of Deeds office, along with your filing fee. Fees vary by county.

Incorporated Businesses

  1. Because corporations, LLCs, and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) must file for a DBA name at the state level, you have the option of filing online through the Secretary of State’s website. If you want to file by mail, you can print the form from the website.
  2. Complete the form. Information needed includes the DBA name being registered and the current business name.
  3. Submit the form and required filing fee. You can pay by credit card if filing online, although there may also be a small service fee. If submitting by mail, send the form and fee to:

Division of Business Services
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue
Snodgrass Tower, 6th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243

How do I choose a Tennessee DBA name?

Choosing a DBA name is an important decision. You want to make sure your name represents your business well. “Carl’s Crazy Kitchen Creations” has a different feel from “Boutique Baking,” for example. A strong name that conveys not only the nature of your business but also its aesthetic is an important branding concern. The right name makes all future marketing that much easier. 

Once you have a name — or a few names — in mind, the next step is to use the Tennessee Secretary of State’s name search tool. This will show you which name or names are available. Also, take note of which names may be very close to the one you’re considering. You don’t want to run the risk of getting a new name just to have your business too easily confused with another. In general, your DBA name needs to be distinguishable from the names of existing businesses registered or reserved with the state.

The final element to choosing your new DBA name is making sure it adheres to Tennessee’s naming restrictions. Your name must NOT include terms that:

  • Falsely associate your business with existing organizations 
  • Imply any criminal activity
  • Imply your business is a government agency
  • Include restricted words without authorization, such as “Attorney,” “Hospital,” or “Bank”
  • Imply your business is something it’s not. You can’t include the designator “LLC,” for example, if you aren’t actually an LLC.

A last note on naming: Take some time to consider trademarking, and use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to see if your name is available there. Federal trademarking reserves your name outside of Tennessee should you end up operating outside of your home state and can also help protect your logo and other brand-related elements. You can also search using the Tennessee Secretary of State website for state-level trademarks.

Checking domain name availability at this time is also a good idea. A website is a tool every business needs, and snagging a URL with your company’s name is the first crucial step. Try ZenBusiness’s domain name registration services to get your business online quickly and easily.

How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, renewing, renaming, or canceling a DBA name is pretty straightforward.

For sole proprietors and partnerships, the business license — with which you registered your DBA name — renews automatically with every tax return. Changing a DBA name means filing for a new one. Cancel or withdraw a business license (thus closing your DBA name) via a final tax return with the state.

Corporations and other incorporated businesses must renew their DBA names every five years, either online or by mail. Changing or canceling your name can also be done through the Tennessee Secretary of State website. Each of these actions has an associated fee.

We Can Help!

While we don’t currently support DBA registration in Tennessee, we can help you create one in states we do support, including Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah. We can make creating a DBA name in another state simple. 

Tennessee DBA FAQs

  • Registering a DBA name varies by county, so check state and county websites for the most current fee schedules.

  • Processing times vary, but you can generally expect to have your DBA name approved and registered in one to four weeks.

  • A DBA name is only a legal requirement if you want to do business under a different name than your business’s legal name.

  • Yes, filing for a DBA name in Tennessee does not give you exclusive rights to that name.

  • Yes, you can register as many as you want. For example, a professional photographer may want to create unique brands around their wedding and sports photography services. Just remember that each DBA name must be registered and maintained on its own.

  • Yes, although Tennessee refers to DBA names as “assumed names” on its forms.

  • No, a DBA name is only required when doing business under a name not your own. However, it may be to your benefit to consider registering a DBA name to appear more professional.

  • No. A DBA name is merely an alias under which you market your business. It doesn’t affect how your business is taxed at any level.

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